The Inven Global Esports Conference was an event held in Irvine, CA on May 1st to bring together industry leaders to discuss all things esports. This allowed Izento the chance to speak with Ryan Morrison, also known as, The Video Game Attorney, about player salaries, KeSPA and the Players Association.
Do you think player salaries are fair compared to other esports titles such as CS:GO, DotA 2, OW?
League of Legends comes with a lot more structure than a game like DotA, so you’re seeing a lot of new blood coming into LoL, whereas you don’t necessarily see the same in DotA. We’ve been seeing the same stars in DotA for 5-7 years. LoL comes with a lot of support that Valve doesn’t offer, so I think the higher salaries are because it’s a more stable career. These players are on their feet a bit better, understand the situation better with their contracts and I think that salaries are only going to go up to be honest. More investors are coming in and “esports” remains the sexy investor word.
Do you think KeSPA, kind of the bane of your existence (laughs)…
(Laughs) Nah, we don’t deal with them that much, we’re player-to-team at my company Evolved Talent. We don’t deal with Riot or Blizzard or other world organizations that much. Our main negotiations are with the teams themselves, we certainly deal with Riot and Blizzard, but minimally compared to teams.
Ah. Well, they prevent player agents in Korea, and I’m assuming that you want to keep your job, so you don’t want KeSPA in NA. What are the pitfalls of an organization like KeSPA?
That in and of itself is bad. The players that don’t have agents make way less money, they don’t understand what’s in their contract, they don’t get the same kind of sponsorships and their careers are just intrinsically worse because they don’t have someone that is 100% on their team. The coach, team owner, even the league, doesn’t care about them the second they’re benched or traded; that relationship stops. Now, of course there are owners that are friends with their players, but minimal times when that is the case.
Your agent is with you 100% of the time, your lawyer is with you 100%, it doesn’t matter if you’re benched or not, they’re legally obligated to work with this person. The fact that players are missing a relationship like this is bad and I think withholding that is malicious in nature because it’s saying, “don’t let the player understand his rights”. That certainly would not be welcomed in America.
What is your opinion of the Players Association from Riot?
I was incredibly cynical about it at first, because of the idea that Riot was funding it. What was their motive? But, as I’ve gotten to know Hal Biagas, the Head of the Player’s Association, I’ve been nothing but impressed. I think Hal genuinely understands the space, cares about it and cares about these players. He’s the first person in esports in recent history to call me on my shit, basically saying, “fix your contracts and make them better here, here and here”. I appreciated that, I’m glad that someone is looking out for the players besides us, the agents. We should be in check. I have high hopes for what Hal is doing.
The downside is that a lot of players don’t care or want a union. That’s the reality that they’re dealing with. I think this will change over time, but that’s currently where we’re at.